Air Force Memorial turns sweet sixteen

  • Published
  • By Marcelyn Atwood, HQE

Sixteen years ago, the former President of the United States, George W. Bush, dedicated the United States Air Force Memorial with these words.

 “A Soldier can walk the battlefields where he once fought; a Marine can walk the beaches he once stormed, but an Airman can never visit the patch of sky he raced across on a mission to defend freedom.”

So how do you walk the space?

Three silvery spires emerge from a high elevation point to soar up, arching, and narrowing until they seem to disappear into the air. They almost look like aircraft or missile contrails, but their stainless-steel frames represent the power to escape the bonds of earth. Meant to also describe the grace of flight, the AF Memorial also honors the commitment, heroism, and sacrifice of the members who have served the cause of American airpower.

Offset below the spires is a larger-than-life, meticulously detailed statue of the Honor Guard. They stand at one end of a parade ground marked by paths that resemble World War II runways. The runways are enclosed on two ends by black granite walls that contain quotes from noted Air Force and Air Corps leaders about service values and excerpts from letters of Airmen serving their country far from home.

The north granite wall contains the names of Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force Medal of Honor recipients with their hometowns etched alongside. Our heroes come from across our nation. In front of the north granite engravings is the glass contemplation wall, etched with the images of F-16s in a missing man formation, where you may find remembrances of those we’ve lost.

Back in 2006, President Bush went on to say, “… from this day forward, the men and women of the Air Force will have this memorial, a place here on the ground that recognizes their achievements and sacrifices in the skies above.”

The AF Memorial belongs to us all– every Airmen, civilian, and contractor no matter our affiliation– Active Duty, Reservist, National Guard, ROTC and Junior ROTC, and Civil Air Patrol.

So, next time you are near the Pentagon, stop at the Air Force Memorial and reflect on all you and your wingman have accomplished in securing the air and space power for this nation.